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Microsoft Will Pester Windows 7 Users to Upgrade to W10 with Pop-Up Notifications

Microsoft has come up with another way to convince users to upgrade to Windows 10: corporate vice president Matt Barlow explained in a blog post this week Windows 7 users would be subjected to regular pop-up messages urging them to update to the latest version of the OS. That may not be the worst idea, as support for W7 officially ends January 14, 2020.

This is a courtesy reminder that you can expect to see a handful of times in 2019. By starting the reminders now, our hope is that you have time to plan and prepare for this transition. These notifications are designed to help provide information only and if you would prefer not to receive them again, you'll be able to select an option for "do not notify me again", and we will not send you any further reminders. Just as software has changed over the years, so has hardware.

Posted by Megalith March 16, 2019 5:00 PM (CDT)

Citrix Hacked by a Cyberespionage Group

Cloud service, VoIP and remote management software provider Citrix has reportedly been hit by an Irianian-linked hacker group. A little less than a week ago, Citrix posted a notice on their website saying the FBI believed "international cyber criminals gained access to the internal Citrix network." The press release wasn't particularly alarming, as it says that "there is no indication that the security of any Citrix product or service was compromised" even though hackers "may have accessed and downloaded business documents." However, a separate report from the cyber security firm Resecurity claims that the Iranian hacker group IRIDIUM was behind the attack, and that they had access to "6 terabytes of sensitive data stored in the Citrix enterprise network, including e-mail correspondence, files in network shares and other services used for project management and procurement." Even more worryingly, the security firm says they warned Citrix on December 28, 2018, but as far as I can tell, the company hasn't posted a public response until today. Citrix was reportedly the victim of a password spraying attack, where a small pool of commonly used passwords are used to brute force a large number of accounts, and Resecurity seems to think that this attack is a small component of a larger campaign.

The Iranian-linked group known as IRIDIUM has hit more than 200 government agencies, oil and gas companies and technology companies including Citrix Systems, Inc... Friday, December 28, 2018 at 10:25 AM - Resecurity reached out to Citrix and shared an early warning notification about a targeted attack and data breach. Based on the timing and further dynamics, the attack was planned and organized specifically during Christmas period. The incident has been identified as a part of a sophisticated cyberespionage campaign supported by nation-state due to strong targeting against government, military-industrial complex, energy companies, financial institutions and large enterprises involved in critical areas of economy... We forecast a continued growth of targeted cyber-attacks on supply chains of government and large enterprises organized by state-actors and sophisticated cyberespionage groups.

Posted by alphaatlas March 13, 2019 9:41 AM (CDT)

AT&T Raises Prices Again

According to recent reports, AT&T is raising subscription prices for their DirecTV Now streaming service. Citing their own sources, as well as an official confirmation from AT&T, Cord Cutters says that emails about the $10 price hike are supposed to go out today. AT&T also raised U-Verse and satellite subscription prices earlier this year, which wouldn't be particularly surprising were it not for the AT&T's controversial Time Warner acquisition last year. The company argued that the acquisition would make AT&T a more "competitive" company, and allow them to lower prices, but it seems that the DoJ's fears of price hikes during the case were well founded.

The principal reason is simpler: the government did not even begin to make a credible case that the merger would likely harm competition, substantially or even just a little. There is no sound evidence from which the Court could fairly conclude that retail pay-TV prices are likely to increase, that there will be coordinated withholding of content from virtual MVPDs, or that distributors will be unable to use HBO as a promotional tool. There is no proven harm at all-only proven benefits. And because there is no proven harm, there is no basis in law for any remedy, equitable or otherwise.

Posted by alphaatlas March 12, 2019 11:42 AM (CDT)

Intel Might Become the World's Top Chipmaker Again

Many still think of Intel as the top semiconductor manufacturer in the world, but the chip giant actually lost the crown to Samsung back in 2017. The gap only widened in 2018, but, thanks to the cliff DRAM and flash prices are falling off of right now, IC Insights thinks that Chipzilla could reclaim the top spot in 2019. In an update to their 500 page report on the IC industry, the research firm believes that Samsung's total chip sales could fall from $78.5 billion in 2018 to $63.1 billion in 2019, while Intel's ~$70 billion in chip sales should remain relatively flat year to year.

With both the DRAM and NAND flash markets forecast to show big declines this year, IC Insights expects greater than 20% sales declines for the other top-10 ranked memory suppliers (SK Hynix, Micron, and Toshiba/Toshiba Memory) in 2019 as well. Similar to Samsung, the steep sales declines expected for SK Hynix, Micron, and Toshiba in 2019 are likely to lower these companies' revenue back to, or even below, what they were in 2017. This year will likely prove once again that the infamous volatile IC industry cycles are still very much alive and well in the memory market. The March Update will also examine the latest capital spending budgets of the major semiconductor companies for this year. With the memory suppliers expected to encounter a very difficult year in 2019, large capital spending cutbacks from these producers are likely to drag down worldwide semiconductor industry capital spending by at least 14% this year.

Posted by alphaatlas March 08, 2019 8:36 AM (CST)

Windows 10: New Study Shows Home Edition Users Are Baffled by Updates

With automatic updates being such a pain in the butt for Windows 10 users, UK researchers from the University College London sought to uncover precisely why with a study presented this week titled "In Control with No Control: Perceptions and Reality of Windows 10 Home Edition Update Features." They ended up constructing a detailed flow chart of Microsoft's update process, which was unsurprisingly very complex and revealed the two biggest issues: the "Active Hours" feature, and how often updates are delivered or the difference between monthly quality updates and semi-annual feature updates. The researchers’ biggest suggestion is that Windows should "obtain explicit permission for restarts consistently."

...among the 26 participants who were aware of the feature, 10 had not changed it from the default settings even though it clashed with their daily schedule. Not surprisingly, that resulted in about half of the survey respondents reporting that they had experienced unexpected restarts. The other noteworthy finding from the research is that users don't understand how often updates are delivered, nor do they appreciate the difference between monthly quality updates and semi-annual feature updates. That can lead to anxiety when an unexpected feature update takes well over an hour compared to the 12 minutes or less that a monthly cumulative update takes.

Posted by Megalith March 02, 2019 1:15 PM (CST)

Netflix May Be Losing $192M per Month from Piracy, Cord Cutting Study Claims

New research published by suggests Netflix could be losing an estimated $192 million every month and $2.3 billion every year due to subscription mooching (i.e., password sharing), with freeloading users saving $207.74 over a 26-month period at (the previous) base price of $7.99 per month. This is substantially more than Amazon and Hulu, which have lost $45 million per month and $40 million per month, respectively. "Millennials, not surprisingly, account for much of the freeloading."

There’s an argument that those who pirate would never be paying customers, so these aren’t true losses. It’s the same sort of thing that was said about Napster mp3 downloads back in the day, or about those pirating movies through The Pirate Bay. But there is some portion of the freeloading population that claims they would pay, if they lost access. According to the study, 59.3 percent said they would pay for Netflix (or around 14 million people), contributing at least $112 million in monthly revenue, if they lost access.

Posted by Megalith March 02, 2019 10:40 AM (CST)

USB-IF Changes Branding Again With USB 3.2

While the existing USB 3.0 and 3.1 standards are already confusing enough, the USB Implementers' Forum just published (PDF warning) a set of "Language Usage Guidelines" that will govern how sellers and manufacturers advertise the next generation of USB. The new USB 3.2 standard absorbs all prior 3.0 and 3.1 specifications, and divides the standard into 3 different parts. 5Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 1 will be marketed as "SuperSpeed USB," while the Gen2 and Gen2x2 standards will be marketed as SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps and 20Gbps, respectively. As PC World pointed out, the new branding has nothing to do with the physical connector or power-transfer capabilities, and they seem to think manufacturers could work their way around the branding limitations with deliberate ambiguity.

As others were quick to point out, there's really nothing that prohibits a laptop manufacturer, for example, from simply calling a device a "USB 3.2" port and failing to describe how much bandwidth it will provide to the user. The USB-IF's pleas notwithstanding, the only restrictions appear to be in the use of the USB-IF's logos, which requires passing the USB Compliance Program. Why this matters: There's one consolation: The new specifications are backward-compatible, meaning that you'll still be able to plug in an older USB device to a new USB 3.2 port. Still, the branding of it all is an absolute nightmare, and is an additional headache computer and smartphone buyers don't need.

Posted by alphaatlas February 27, 2019 11:14 AM (CST)

Consumer Reports Pulls Tesla Model 3 Recommendation Again

Consumer Reports has a complicated history with the Tesla. The Model S an X weren't exactly loved by the nonprofit testing organization, and Consumer Reports pulled their recommendation for the Model 3 last year after it found serious braking issues with the Model 3. In a remarkable demonstration of Tesla's update system, the flaw was quickly fixed, and Consumer Reports reinstated their recommendation, but New Atlas reports that withdrawn it again. According to the magazine's website, Model 3 owners have "identified a number of problems with their cars, including issues with its body hardware, as well as paint and trim. CR members reported these results in our annual reliability survey, which includes data on about 470,000 vehicles." Consumer reports talks about the Model 3's reliability score in the video below:

Model 3 owners in our spring survey sample reported some body hardware and in-car electronics problems, such as the screen freezing, which we have seen with other Tesla models. The latest survey data also shows complaints about paint and trim issues. In addition, some members reported that the Model 3's sole display screen acted strangely. "The touch screen would intermittently begin acting as if someone was touching it rapidly at many different points," one member wrote in. "This fault would cause music to play, volume to increase to maximum, and would rescale and pan the map in the navigation system." Some owners also complained about glass defects, including cracks in the rear window, in their survey responses. In fact, CR experienced similar problems with its own Model 3. Earlier this year, our test vehicle developed a large crack in its massive rear window during a cold spell when it was parked outside.

Posted by alphaatlas February 22, 2019 11:12 AM (CST)

China Freezes New Game Applications Again

Last year, China stopped approving new video games in an effort to (this is a direct translation) "protect children's eyesight," which created quite a bit of anxiety in the gaming industry. Eventually, the government started approving games again, but the pace was relatively slow, and many worried that the government wouldn't be able keep up with the sheer volume of games coming to market. Now, it appears that those fears have been realized. The eloquently named "State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People's Republic of China" released a new batch of approved games 5 days ago, but like the previous releases, I don't see any major titles from Tencent or western publishers in the list. I spotted a few console and PC titles, but it's largely dominated by a wave of mobile releases which, according to a report by Reuters, may be too much for the government to handle. Reuters' sources claim that the Chinese government stopped approving new games to work through their existing backlog. While investors in Chinese gaming companies will undoubtedly lose sleep over this, China is the world's largest gaming market by a considerable margin, so this freeze is also bad news for outside publishers that want to expand into the booming market. Ironically, it might also be good news for Valve, as much of their existing library is still accessible in the country.

"The regulator asked local authorities to stop submitting applications because there is too much of a backlog for it to deal with at the moment," said one of the people, whose company was informed about the matter by its local authority. The person said the request was made to local authorities nationwide. The regulator approved 1,982 domestic and foreign online games during January-March last year before the freeze, government data showed. That came after approving 9,651 domestic and foreign online games in all of 2017. GAPP has approved 538 games since December. It is likely to approve just 2,000 to 3,000 titles in 2019, said Jefferies analyst Karen Chan in a note to clients. "Generally speaking the whole industry is frightened. There is no sign that regulators will loosen their control, said Beijing-based tech analyst Li Chengdong. "Investors are worried about the red line and risks here."

Posted by alphaatlas February 20, 2019 10:10 AM (CST)

Microsoft Highlights Xbox Adaptive Controller Users in New Super Bowl Commercial

Microsoft has released an extended version of its upcoming Super Bowl commercial that highlights the challenges that young people with disabilities may face when simply trying to have fun. The commercial shows how the Xbox Adaptive Controller can bring smiles to kids, levels the playing field, and empowers them to fit in with everyone else playing video games.

When technology empowers each of us, it empowers all of us. This Super Bowl, follow the inspirational story of passionate young gamers rising to the top of their game with a little help from their friends, family and the Xbox Adaptive Controller. The story illustrates Microsoft's commitment to building accessible technology that levels the playing field and creates opportunity for all of us.

Posted by cageymaru January 31, 2019 2:10 PM (CST)

Aetna Will Reward Its Attain App Users with an Apple Watch

Aetna has launched a new initiative called Attain that will allow its users to pay for their Apple Watch by participating in the program. Aetna has deep clinical experience assisting its members with their healthcare needs from wellness to chronic disease. Through the use of an Apple Watch, the Attain app will provide Aetna members personalized goals, track their daily activity levels, recommend healthy actions, and ultimately reward them for taking these actions to improve their well-being. Members who participate in the personalized experience that combines their health history with the power of the Apple Watch, will have a chance to earn their Apple Watch as a reward. Participation requires that Aetna members have an iPhone 5S or later and an Apple Watch Series 1 or later. The program is completely voluntary and users can choose the information that they share.

After users have joined Attain, they will have the additional option to share their Attain program data and health history with Apple, enabling Apple and Aetna to collaborate, and over time, continue to improve the Attain experience. Through analytics and machine learning, the collaboration will lead to new features for Attain, offering more personalized recommendations designed to give greater context and decrease barriers to health care. All Attain health data is encrypted on the device, in transit, and on Aetna and Apple's servers, where it will be stored in a highly secure environment using industry-leading practices fully in compliance with HIPAA. Information from this program will not be used for underwriting, premium or coverage decisions.

Posted by cageymaru January 29, 2019 2:07 PM (CST)

Chinese App Identifies "Deadbeat Debtors" in Area, Encourages Users to Report Them

A court in China has released an app through the WeChat platform that exposes "deadbeat debtors" within a 500-meter range, revealing their name, national ID number, and why they were added to the debtor list. The Higher People's Court of Hebei designed the program in the hopes that Chinese citizens would snitch on one another. "It's a part of our measures to enforce our rulings and create a socially credible environment," said a spokesman of the court.

News of the app has caused quite a bit of controversy after it was originally reported by the state-run China Daily. It is an extension to China's existing "social credit" system which scores people based on how they act in public. It's no secret that China keeps a very close watch on its citizens, but this new public shaming approach takes it one step further. The app is available through the WeChat platform, which has become immensely popular in China.

Posted by Megalith January 27, 2019 9:50 AM (CST)